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TEDGlobal: Challenging stereotypes

What started off as a conference on technology, entertainment and design has now become a platform for a diverse range of ideas and issues around the world.
Last modified: 14 Jul 2011 20:36
Nadia al-Sakkaf, editor-in-chief of Yemen Times, speaks at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh [James Duncan Davidson/TED]

Nadia al-Sakkaf is the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Times, the most widely read English-language newspaper in Yemen.

She was a speaker at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she spoke about the challenges of her job, especially as a woman, in the media and in the Arab world.

Al-Sakkaf became the chief editor of the newspaper in March 2005, and has become a leading voice in Yemen and global media on issues of media, gender, development and politics.

She said that her role at the paper was to "build bridges", both within Yemeni society, as well as between her country and the rest of the world.

Yemen has been embroiled in a leadership crisis for the past few months, with pro-democracy protesters demanding the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In the past, her paper has been an advocate for women's participation in politics, she also published "Breaking the Stereotype", a book on Yemeni women's experience as political candidates in elections.

Erik Hersman, a Kenyan technologist and blogger, is the co-founder of Ushahidi - a free and open source platform for crowdsourcing information and visualizing data.

He spoke about innovation in Africa, and also highlighted how Ushahidi was still being used for the benefit of people globally.

"We should not be surprised to see innovation coming from Africa - we should be expecting it," Hersman said.

"Innovation is equally distributed throughout the world and Africa is no different."

During the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2007-2008, Hersman helped create the Ushahidi, a website to report incidents of violence via the web and texts.

Within hours of the Mumbai attacks on Wednesday, Ajay Kumar, a software engineer in Lucknow, created a disaster tracker map on Ushahidi.

Based on hashtags such as #MumbaiBlasts, #here2help and others, Kumar flagged the map of Mumbai, indicating where people were stranded, or where they could seek shelter.

This is just the latest example of the Ushahidi platform, which was created in Africa, has helped people globally. The platform was previously used, among other places, in Haiti, Gaza and Japan.